Cultural Corner: Etiquette and Celebrations

Spanish speakers tend toward formality in their treatment of one another. A firm handshake is a common practice between people as greeting and for leave-taking. A hug and a light kiss on a cheek are also common greeting practices between women, and men and women who are close friends or family. The Spanish language provides forms of formal and nonformal address (different use of usted vs. tu for the pronoun you, polite and familiar commands, the use of titles of respect before people’s first names such as Don or Dona). In nonformal settings, conversations between Spanish speakers are usually loud, fast, and adorned with animated gestures and body language to better convey points.

 

Hispanics usually give great importance to and place great value on looks and appearance as a sense of honor, dignity, and pride. Formal attire is commonly worn by Hispanics to church, parties, social gatherings, and work. Tennis shoes and jeans, however, are becoming more popular among Hispanic women, particularly in non-formal settings. Hispanics tend to be more relaxed and flexible about time and punctuality than U.S. people. For instance, people who are invited for an 8 a.m. event may not begin to arrive until 8:30 a.m. or later. Within the Hispanic community, not being on time is a socially acceptable behavior. Hispanics tend to be reserved about public speaking because of their accent.
 
Celebrations and Holidays
Latin American countries celebrate the more popular international holidays, notably Easter, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Day, and the Three Kings’ Day. In addition, each country celebrates its El Dia de Independencia. The term fiesta nacional refers to an official national holiday; las fiestas refer to festivals – local, regional, or national – that may be held only one day or may last several days. Most holidays are centered on or have their origins in religion. Many celebrations of the Catholic Church are officially designated by the government as holidays. National government offices may be closed or have limited hours for local or regional holidays.
 
Eating Habits
In Latin American countries, a light meal is served for breakfast. Lunch, referred as el almuerzo, usually is the main meal of the day for Spanish-speakers. In some countries, it is customary for adult family members and children to come home from work or school for about two hours to be together for this meal. La siesta, which is a rest period taken after lunch, is known to be a common practice among adult Hispanics. In the early evening, la merienda, a light snack of coffee and rolls or sandwiches, is served. This meal is often very informal and may be just for children. In the evening, often as late as 9:00 p.m., la cena, a small supper, concludes the day’s meals. Once settled in the United States, most Hispanics/Latinos adopt the three-meal system. Midday and evening meals are important family or social events. Especially when guests are present, the meal may be followed by the sobremesa, a time to linger and talk over coffee or perhaps an after-dinner drink. Usually when food or additional servings are offered to Hispanic/Latino people, they tend to accept only after it is offered a second or third time.
 
Copied with permission from Hispanic Ministry in the Carolinas. www.hispanic-ministry.org
 
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